Blog entry by Astrid Dinneen

Anyone in the world

Starting school can be a tricky time for any child and their family but for learners of English as an additional language (EAL) it can be a particularly anxious time. In this blog Specialist Teacher Advisor Helen Smith discusses ways to support new EAL learners and help them and their families settle into the school community.  



 

It can be difficult for some EAL parents to understand the equipment that their child needs for school, such as a P.E kit, book bag and spare clothes. They may also welcome some guidance on what is appropriate and usual to put in a lunch box. Some parents may not be aware that their child needs to be able to dress themselves, take themselves to the toilet, feed themselves etc., and they will need some support with helping their child become more independent with their self-care. Families may also not fully understand the school system. In some countries for instance, children do not progress from one school year to the next without passing exams. Some parents may not be familiar with the concept of learning through play and will need help to understand all the learning that is taking place in a busy Reception classroom. In many counties their child would not be expected to start school until they are 6 or 7 years old. This can make parents feel more unsettled and worried about their child beginning their school journey at a young age.

There are some simple steps that you can take to help your EAL families feel welcome and more settled. This starts with finding out as much background information as you can. As well as the usual new starter information, it will be useful to know about all the languages spoken in the home. You will need to ensure names are pronounced correctly and that naming conventions are understood. It is also important to know if the child was born in the UK or if they’re a new arrival to the country. If the child is not UK born, try to find out about the circumstances of their relocation and about their journey – was it difficult or traumatic? It is also useful to find out if the family is isolated or if they have strong family and community links.

All this information will help you in putting the right support and resources in place. For example, you may like to share translated or simplified information available on our website. You can also direct parents to the EMTAS phonelines or ask a Bilingual Assistant to help interpret. An effective way to ensure good communication is to hold weekly/half-termly drop-in sessions for EAL parents to discuss any letters or concerns.

Tapping into children’s languages will help EAL learners feel welcomed and settled in the classroom right from the start. You may consider using a peer mentoring programme such as the Young Interpreter Scheme or source multilingual signs and labels as well as multilingual books and resources. You can also invite speakers of other languages into your classroom and learn basic words in a child’s first language. The use of first language should also be encouraged in play and the rehearsing of speech and writing. Head to our Moodle to find out how the use of first language as a tool for learning can support your learners in making solid academic progress.

Another effective tool to help a child transition in school are Persona Dolls. They can be used to introduce a new member of the class and learn about other cultures but also to help children to learn ways to challenge unfairness and discrimination. They help with emotional wellbeing and self-esteem, highlight diversity and commonality and are also a great tool to encourage talk in the classroom. It is important to remember that the doll is a member of your class, not a toy. Persona Dolls can be borrowed from our Resources Centre and training on their effective use is available from EMTAS. Please contact the EMTAS office - EMTAS@hants.gov.uk - if you would like to book a session.


EMTAS Coffee Events revamped 


Hosting an EMTAS Coffee Event is another way to help EAL families feel settled and welcome in school. The aim of a coffee event is to provide parents of EAL learners the opportunity to find out a little bit more about the routines and expectations of their children’s school and help them to feel more engaged with their child’s learning and the school community. It is good practice for one or two Bilingual Assistants representing the school’s most prevalent languages to be on hand to interpret as needed.

During the summer term we began a shake-up of our EMTAS Coffee Events programme. After all the lockdowns we felt that a lot of schools and parents would welcome the opportunity to get together face-to-face once again and start building partnerships. The sessions involve a suite of slides that can be adapted to suit the individual needs of the school. To ensure that we cater for all the languages spoken by our families, the coffee events and slides are designed to be simple, visual and informative. Coffee events are interactive and allow the parents ample opportunity to ask questions and voice any concerns or worries. To facilitate this, we have designed the slides to be based around questions, so it is more of a conversation than a presentation. Questions covered in the slides so far include: 

What is Hampshire EMTAS?

What does my child need to be able to do for him/herself?

How can you help your child to settle in?

What does my child need to bring to school each day?

What should I put in my child’s lunchbox?

Should my child maintain first language?

How can you support your child’s reading?

What can you do at home to support your child’s learning?   

Currently our slides our very Primary based. However we are working with Secondary schools to develop some secondary based slides. If you would like to book a coffee event for your school, you can contact the EMTAS office - EMTAS@hants.gov.uk.

More advice and guidance can be found on our website. This includes information about making a Year R referral and how and when to make a Year R transition referral. In addition more ideas and resources can be found in the guidance library on our Moodle. If you would like to improve your EAL practice in Early Years you can also sign up for our EYFS E-Learning on our MoodleThe course takes you through an introduction and gives you some starting points and some context about the different languages that are spoken across Hampshire. There are top tips and help with assessment and action planning as well as advice on the best use of resources.


[ Modified: Thursday, 25 November 2021, 1:09 PM ]